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Ranching Heritage Challenge Hits Houston

Cowboys and their mounts tested their mettle March 23 at the Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

By Tara Matsler
The American Quarter Horse Journal
March 23, 2014

Ben Baldus and Cruze Mode are the open 5/6-year-old working ranch horse champions at the 2014 Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge in Houston

Ben Baldus came out on top in open 5/6-year-old working ranch horse aboard W.T. Waggoner Estate's Cruze Mode (Wimpys Little Step-Smart Lassie Chick by Smart Chic Olena). (Credit: Journal) BELOW: Watch highlights from the Ranching Heritage Challenge in Houston.

The three-week-long Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo got a full dose of ranch horses in just a span of four days. Coming on the heels of the Zoetis Versatility Ranch Horse and John Deere Cowboy Mounted Shooting AQHA World Championships in Houston, the Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge wrapped up the 2014 edition of the stock show on March 23.

Ranchers, cowboys and their horses traveled far and wide for a shot at $20,000 in added money at the event presented by AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis and sponsored by Bar G Feedyards and AQHA Corporate Partner Double J Saddlery.

Open Ranch Horse Pleasure

First on the order of business was open ranch horse pleasure, where Kris Wilson of Solano, New Mexico, shined with his own Miss Maggies Joseph (Josephs Gold-Tos Miss Maggie by Ten O Sea), bred by Bill and Dana Smith of Spur, Texas.   

It was just Kris’ second try at ranch horse pleasure with the 5-year-old stallion, who Kris has owned since the black horse was a weanling. 

“The pattern had you walk in and go to the left and then do a trot, to an extended trot and come to the middle and then do a sidepass, then spin each direction, lope, extended lope, lead change and then a trot, stop and back,” Kris told the Journal

“I showed this horse at the Fort Worth (Stock Show and Rodeo) with the same pattern and I got third. My goal was to show more extension this time.”

As the ranch manager of Silver Spur Ranches’ Bell Ranch in New Mexico, Kris requires a hard-working mount that’s a pleasure to ride. And Miss Maggies Joseph fits that role to a T.
 
“This horse is a perfect horse out on the ranch,” Kris said. “We gather big pastures and he gathers out there and this horse will trot for 17 miles and it’s something we’ve done for a long time. 

“I’m just glad the American Quarter Horse Association has a class that allows us to do in an arena what we do at home.”

Amateur Ranch Horse Pleasure

On the amateur side of things, class champions Thomas Hicks of Hawley, Texas, and Greyt Socks (Greyt Whiz-Frosty Bo Socks by Mr Sorrel Bo) proved once again that they’re the ranch horse pleasure pair to beat.

The duo was fresh off the 2013 Zoetis VRH amateur world championship, and they also happen to be the reigning Select amateur ranch horse pleasure world champions.   

“We went in the open class first and I just pushed him a little hard in the transition from a lope to an extended trot,” Thomas said of his gray gelding bred by WT Waggoner Estate of Vernon, Texas. “So this time I just tried to make sure that I got every transition before I asked him to go faster. 

“He was ready, but he’s tired; he’s been here all week. But he still went out there and had a great run.”

Amateur Boxing

While ranch horse pleasure is a new Ranching Heritage Challenge class for 2014, it’s also in the inaugural-class company of boxing, an introductory class to working ranch horse.

The amateur boxing class champion was Kathleen Grayson of Woodsboro, Texas, riding Fantasy Pay Day (Pay Days Gray-Ms Fantasy Image by Dry Docs Image), bred by John Morgan O’Brien of Beeville, Texas.

“I am new to the working cow horse and Ranching Heritage,” Kathleen said. “I used to ride hunter-jumpers, so for the past three years I’ve been trying to learn how to work cows and this event has been a phenomenal. 

“We’re a work in progress, but I’m hoping to get to the top,” Kathleen admitted. “Boxing is a great class because it takes out the running and allows you to focus on working the cow.”

Houston wasn’t Kathleen’s first Ranching Heritage event, and she promises she’ll be back for more.

“The people are so nice and helpful; I can’t think of a better AQHA program,” she added. 

Open 4-Year-Old Working Ranch Horse

Moving on with the morning, the working ranch horse classes kicked off with open 4-year-old, which saw Fielding “Bozo” Rogers and Playboys Ginnin (Playboys Buck Fever-Pretty Ginnin by Tanquery Gin) take the top prize. Owned by Wes and Sarah Williams of Rhome, Texas, Playboys Ginnin was bred by Burnett Ranches of Guthrie, Texas.

“We tried to be pretty correct and quiet in the rein work; she’s still green,” Bozo said. “We tried to just stay out of the penalty box and be as correct as we could.

“On the cow, we tried to step it up more on the cow; she’s a little stronger there than she is in the reining. We just tried to be correct there and add a little on the cow. It turned out that it worked out.”

The Ranching Heritage Challenge wasn’t the only event in Houston where Bozo saw a good deal of success this weekend: Wes and Sarah’s WM Blasted Smart was ridden by Bozo to the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse open reserve world championship on Saturday.

Whether it’s competing in them or officiating as the judge, Bozo says he greatly enjoys ranch-horse events. 

“These Ranching Heritage Challenges are a lot of fun. I think it’s great that they’re having this program. There are so many different areas that you can go and work on, and it gives a ranch cowboy a place to go. They can go show their horses and have fun, yet they earn a lot of good money on them. It’s been a lot of fun.” 

Watch an interview with Bozo about Playboys Ginnin’s winning performance.

Limited Open 4-Year-Old Working Ranch Horse

The limited open 4-year-old working ranch horse class saw Shawn Holden and Grays Little Pop (Little Til Light-Moore Sugs Pop by Right This Minnick) as the champions. The 4-year-old gelding is owned by M-Heart Corp. of Vinton, Louisiana.

By winning the class at Houston, Grays Little Pop improved on his fifth-place finish at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo's Ranching Heritage Challenge in January. 

Open 5/6-Year-Old Working Ranch Horse

As the day loped along, cowboys traded out their 4-year-olds for older foal crops, showing off their 5- and 6-year-olds in the open working ranch horse class for that age division.

Ben Baldus riding Cruze Mode came in at the top of the pack. Cruze Mode (Wimpys Little Step-Smart Lassie Chick by Smart Chic Olena) is a 5-year-old sorrel stallion owned and bred by W.T. Waggoner Estate of Vernon, Texas.

“I trained and showed Cruze Mode at the National Reining Horse Association Futurity, then after that we made the NRHA Open Derby finals, then I showed him in the cow horse. Now we’re going to do some ranch events on him.”

For Ben, training for reining, cow horse or ranch-horse events – it makes no different. 

“It’s all the same as far as having them broke and consistent,” he said. “We do some work on the ranch there and ride these horses. Actually, my wife and I ride them back and forth to the house for lunch; that’s their trail ride about every other day. We rope off of them almost every day, do the reining every day and work a cow on them almost every day. 

“We’re really excited about the Ranching Heritage program. It’s something that fits the horses really well and it creates a really good market for those ranchers and the breeders out there who are breeding the traditional Quarter Horse, and it’s something we’re real excited about getting into.”    

Watch an interview with Ben about Cruze Mode’s win.

Limited Open 5/6-Year-Old, Cowboy Working Ranch Horse

In the limited open 5- and 6-year-old working ranch horse class, Four Sixes Ranch cowboy Dusty Burson rode Playin With Pick (Playin Attraction-Natural Pick by Tenino Badger) to the class title; the 6-year-old mare is owned and bred by Burnett Ranches of Guthrie, Texas. Dusty and Playin With Pick then returned in the cowboy class for that win, as well.

“I was a little nervous in the 4-year-old class on my first horse,” Dusty said with a laugh. “I was a little nervous because of that run, but I thought this mare did well in the 5/6-year-old class. We got a good cow and I was happy with her.”

Dusty, along with his brothers Lee True, who also works for Four Sixes Ranch, and Zack, who cowboys at Silver Spur Ranches, feel pretty fortunate that they can enjoy American Quarter Horses on the ranch, as well as in the show pen.

“This is a really good opportunity for cowboys to get to bring their horses to town and show,” Dusty said. “I think it’ll get bigger and bigger and more ranches and more cowboys will start coming to them.”

Dusty says Playin With Pick fits that work-hard, play-hard model well, too. 
 
“She’s good on the ranch. I went to Montana this summer and I took her and used her up there to work. She’s pretty cool,” he said. “She’s a really nice horse and I feel blessed to get to ride her.” 

Watch Dusty talk about his winning performances aboard Playin With Pick.

Amateur, Novice Amateur Working Ranch Horse

Rounding out the day were the amateur classes, which provided rancher Bryan Lee the chance to show off his breeding program. In amateur working ranch horse, Bryan showed homebred Lees Doc O Sunrise (out of Watch This Sunrise by Sunrise Enterprise) to the win. Then in Novice amateur working ranch horse, Bryan was aboard BC Docs Sail Wind (out of Ladys Sail Wind by Sailwind) when he won that class title. Both horses are by Bryan’s stallion, Docs Croton Lobo, and are very close on their dam sides, too. 

“He’s just fun; he’s so broke and he loves doing his job,” Bryan says of his gray stallion. “He rides better the more I ride him out in the pasture and on the farm than he rides better here.

“We showed for three days in the Versatility Ranch Horse World Show before this, and I wondered if we should even be in the Ranching Heritage Challenge because there’s some really good hands in it,” Bryan explained. “I said, ‘Let’s just go do our job for the day, and it all worked out and the rope went on.”

Since in working ranch horse a horse and rider must first complete a rein work pattern, then box a cow on the short wall of the arena before driving the cow down the fence to make two fence turns, at least one each way, before roping the cow. However, in the amateur division, riders have the option to circle the cow rather than rope the cow. Bryan’s course of action was to rope his cow, and like all riders, he was given two loops, meaning two chances, to catch and stop the cow.  

Watch an interview with Bryan as the rancher talks about his wins with his homebred horses.

Bryan and wife Chris ranch in North Platte, Nebraska. The duo made a fine time out of their stay in Houston for the Zoetis VRH World, where Bryan showed Lees Doc O Sunrise to a fourth-place finish in amateur. Winning both the amateur and Novice amateur working ranch horse classes was certainly icing on the cake.

Head to www.aqha.com/ranching to see the full slate of 2014 Ranching Heritage Challenges. While you’re there, learn more about the AQHA Ranching Heritage program, which strives to recognize Ranching Heritage Breeders and their ranch-raised American Quarter Horses.